It is hard to believe that it has been two years since featherweight king Urijah “The California Kid” Faber was unceremoniously dethroned by Mike Brown at WEC 36. While he was knocked down a peg or two, Faber was hardly removed from relevancy and will get his chance at redemption tonight at WEC 48 when he takes on feared WEC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo.
Although he has posted two losses (both to Mike Brown) in his last four fights, Faber is still a force to be reckoned with at 145lbs. His second fight against Brown went the distance and Faber managed to maintained an offense and keep himself out of serious danger despite working with two broken hands. He rebounded from that fight with a masterful performance over tough submission specialist Raphael Assuncao, knocking him down and finishing him with a rear naked choke; truly looking the part of a Mixed Martial Artist in the process. Faber is the underdog in this fight against Aldo but he is confident and coming to win back the belt he believes is rightfully his.
Brazilian Jose Aldo gained widespread notoriety in 2009 for stringing together four TKO or KO wins in the WEC; including a highlight reel double-flying knee knockout of Cub Swanson and the subsequent TKO over Mike Brown that netted him the WEC Featherweight Championship Belt. A Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu jitsu, Aldo is known for having very impressive striking; combining speed, reach, technique and power to put opponents away with viciousness and apparent ease. He has only lost once in seventeen fights, with that loss being a submission to Luciano Azevedo that came in his eighth professional fight.
Faber carries into this fight a rabid fan base (largely made up of female MMA fans) and a home court advantage, as WEC 48 is going down in Sacramento, “The California Kid's” hometown. Despite being more widely recognized, Faber is considered a heavy underdog in this fight; we have seen him stunned by punches before and many believe that Faber's chin will not hold up to Aldo's barrage of strikes. What Faber does have going for him in this fight is a frenetic pace and an unorthodox, creative style that utilizes wrestling and inventive striking together to keep opponent's off balance and wary. Aldo has never gone past the third round before while Faber has gone the distance more than once. Faber can win this fight if he keeps his defense tight and mixes his strikes up with his wrestling to keep Aldo guessing and to wear him down.
Jose Aldo has everything going for him in this fight; a world of hype, the momentum gained by brutally defeating his last six opponents and a legitimately praised overall MMA skill set. The road to victory for Aldo is fairly simple: he needs to avoid being thrown off by Faber's unorthodoxy, keep his range and land big shots from outside. Aldo showed proper takedown defense in his fight against Mike Brown and should be able to employ that same defense against Faber to prevent being taken down. However, should the fight see Aldo on his back at any point he does have a BJJ Black Belt to back himself up. Aldo is rightfully the favorite in this fight as there is little that Faber can show him that he has not already seen.
While it is very easy to imagine Aldo winning this fight in his typical, brutal fashion, I hesitate to count Faber out. A focused and motivated Faber is a dangerous opponent for anyone to face. He was incredibly impressive in his second defeat to Mike Brown; showing grit and ingenuity by staying in the fight to the last bell even after breaking both hands in the early going. He remained a threat by utilizing his elbows, knees and kicks and it is this kind of ingenuity and fearlessness that makes Faber a threat to Aldo's crown. That said, this could easily end up being the fight where Aldo begins an Anderson Silva-like reign over the featherweight division; if Brown and Faber cannot defeat him, who at featherweight can?